The Turkish General Healthcare Insurance System

October 24, 2023by Bünyamin Esen0

Healthcare is a fundamental human right, and countries around the world have devised various systems to ensure that their citizens have access to quality medical care. Turkey, a transcontinental country located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, has implemented a general healthcare insurance system that aims to provide universal coverage and improve healthcare accessibility. This essay explores the Turkish healthcare system, its history, structure, and key features.


Historical Background

The history of healthcare in Turkey has evolved significantly over the years. Prior to the implementation of a universal healthcare system, the country had a complex and fragmented healthcare system, with multiple insurance schemes and limited access for many citizens. In 2003, Turkey initiated a series of healthcare reforms aimed at expanding healthcare coverage and improving the quality of care. The primary goal was to establish a universal healthcare system that would provide equitable access to healthcare services.


The General Healthcare Insurance System

The cornerstone of the Turkish healthcare system is the General Healthcare Insurance (Genel Sağlık Sigortası, GSS). The GSS was introduced in 2008 and is administered by the Social Security Institution (SGK). It is designed to provide healthcare coverage for all Turkish citizens, foreign nationals residing in Turkey, and stateless individuals living within the country’s borders. This system has made significant strides in ensuring that all residents have access to essential medical services.

Key Features of the Turkish Healthcare System

  1. Universal Coverage: The GSS aims to provide universal coverage, ensuring that all residents have access to essential healthcare services, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
  2. Contribution-Based Financing: The GSS is primarily funded through social security contributions from employees, employers, and the government. These contributions help sustain the system and make it financially viable.
  3. Primary Care Physicians: The system emphasizes the role of primary care physicians as gatekeepers to the healthcare system. Patients typically start their healthcare journey by consulting with a family doctor, who can then refer them to specialists if necessary.
  4. Healthcare Facilities: Turkey boasts a network of public and private healthcare facilities, including hospitals, clinics, and healthcare centers, ensuring that healthcare services are readily available to all citizens.
  5. Pharmaceutical Coverage: The GSS includes pharmaceutical coverage, allowing patients to access essential medications prescribed by healthcare professionals.
  6. Medical Tourism: Turkey has become a popular destination for medical tourism due to its high-quality healthcare facilities, experienced medical professionals, and competitive pricing.


Challenges and Future Directions

While the Turkish healthcare system has made remarkable progress, it still faces several challenges. These include regional disparities in healthcare quality and access, administrative inefficiencies, and the need for better integration between the public and private sectors. Additionally, as with many universal healthcare systems, sustainability and cost containment are ongoing concerns.

Looking forward, the Turkish government must continue to address these challenges and refine the healthcare system. This may involve improving healthcare infrastructure in rural areas, enhancing the quality of care, and finding innovative solutions for cost containment. Turkey should also explore opportunities for international collaboration in research and healthcare delivery to remain competitive in the global healthcare market.


Turkey’s General Healthcare Insurance System represents a significant step toward universal healthcare coverage, marking a commendable effort to ensure that all residents have access to essential medical services. By addressing challenges and continuously refining the system, Turkey can build a more equitable and sustainable healthcare system that serves as a model for other countries striving to provide universal healthcare. Accessible healthcare is not only a right but also a vital component of societal well-being and progress.

Bünyamin Esen

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